Content Warning: This article discusses mental health issues and disorders that some readers may find triggering.

For years, movies on Netflix that highlight mental health have been iffy, at best, often negating the truth behind the experiences around mental health that people deal with on a daily basis. Mental health has been a growing concern, a topic (finally) more in the public eye, and for those who grew up in the digital age, a harsh reality. There is no shortage of big-screen attempts at depicting mental illness. Many have swung and missed, while others did their due diligence to accurately and sensitively display the issues real people are faced with.


Not only does Netflix have plenty of options when it comes to narrative films and series, but there are also plenty of choices for fans when it comes to documentaries about mental health issues. The Mind Explained is a 2019 documentary series narrated by Emma Stone (season 1) and Julianne Moore (season 2) and delves into what happens to the human brain when they dream and when they use psychedelic drugs. Another option is the Headspace series, which gives viewers a chance to achieve stress-relieving meditations to relax.

Related: 20 Movie Characters Who Accurately Portray Mental Illness

Brain On Fire (2016)

Chloe Grace Moretz in Brain on Fire.

Released in 2016, Brain on Fire is based on the memoir Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. The book tells the story of Cahalan, who experienced a mysterious illness while working for the New York Post, which was misdiagnosed by doctors and saw her almost committed to a psychiatric facility, where she likely would have died. In the movie, Chloƫ Grace Moretz stars as Cahalan as she fights to find out the truth about her condition, which ended up being encephalitis. Once discovered, she received the treatment she needed and wrote her book to let others know that hope was possible.

Stutz (2022)

Phil Stutz talking to the camera in Stutz.

In 2022, Stutz became the latest of the mental health movies on Netflix, this one a documentary feature. Jonah Hill directed the documentary, which chronicled the life and career of Dr. Phil Stutz, his own personal therapist. The movie takes the form of a series of conversations where they discuss their life stories and the topic of mental health. Stutz also delves into his mode of approaching therapy and his relationship with his patients. The Netflix original was a critical success, with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only is it about Stutz and his work, but also about Jonah Hill’s own doubts and experiences surrounding his mental health.

Take Your Pills: Xanax (2022)

A woman takes a pill into her mouth in Take Your Pills

Released in 2022, Take Your Pills: Xanax is a documentary that is directed by Blair Foster about the drug’s rise in use over the years. One of the newer mental health movies on Netflix, this is actually a continuation of a 2018 Netflix documentary called Take Your Pills, which looked at medication like Adderall and Ritalin. But this documentary isn’t taking sides when it comes to the use of Xanax, as it looks at both pros and cons of the medication and its implications on mental health in America. The doc features interviews with medical experts and professionals, as well as academics and Xanax users, about the overall effects of the medication.

All The Bright Places (2020)

Violet & Finch grinning in All The Bright Places

All the Bright Places is a book-to-movie adaptation released on Netflix in 2020. Elle Fanning stars alongside Justice Smith as Theodore Finch, a character living with an unnamed mental illness, with many symptoms similar to some people with bipolar disorder. Fanning’s character also has symptoms of mental illness that sometimes correspond with trauma. Although the film doesn’t highlight mental illness specifically, it manages to do a wonderful job showing how isolating and difficult it can be to live with any type of mental health issue. The film explores how important it is to talk openly about mental illness, whether as a result of teenage adolescence, grief, or abuse.

Related: 20 Most Inaccurate Movie Character Portrayals Of Mental Illness

To The Bone (2017)

Lily Collins sitting in a doctors office in To The Bone.

To The Bone is one of the mental health movies on Netflix released in 2017, starring Lily Collins as a young woman with anorexia. The film’s eating disorder subject became controversial, but if nothing else, it illustrates how difficult it is for filmmakers to responsibly portray eating disorders on the big screen. The film offers an insightful look into the issues associated with a person living with anorexia and the healing process. It makes an attempt not to glorify the disorder, however, it faced some backlash that would naturally come with showing such content on screen, and many of the scenes were triggering to those in recovery from anorexia.

Strange Voices (1987)

Girl screaming by a car in Strange Voices.

Strange Voices is a mental health movie on Netflix about a young woman with schizophrenia. The film was one of the highest-rated TV movies in 1987 when released, at a time when discussions about mental health were not where they should have been. The New York Times called it “too much, too late,” but the film touches on the difficulties many faced in the ’80s receiving health care for mental illness, and what happened when they didn’t get treatment. It also depicts the learning process of the family of a person with schizophrenia. From denial to acceptance, viewers watch the young woman and her family navigate her illness.

The Fundamentals Of Caring (2016)

Trevor, Ben, Dot and Elsa ride in a van in The Fundamentals of Caring.

Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez star in this comedy-drama film about a recent divorcee suffering from depression, and his unlikely friendship with a disabled teenager for whom he is the caregiver. Although The Fundamentals of Caring is primarily about this relationship and the things Trevor deals with as a man who uses a wheelchair, the film does a wonderful job highlighting the mental health difficulties that each of the characters faces. Paul Rudd’s character deals with severe depression after the loss of his daughter and subsequent divorce, and Trevor battles anxiety associated with his disability.

Horse Girl (2020)

Sarah in House Girl.

This was one of the mental health movies on Netflix released in 2020, following Sarah as she tries to find support. Horse Girl takes a unique look at mental illness, and the film requires more than one viewing to fully understand. Its storyline reflects the real-life experience that actress Alison Brie has with depression and schizophrenia in her family. Sarah has difficulty understanding social cues and her real symptoms of mental illness are brushed off as quirkiness by those closest to her. This is a reality for many who live with mental illness, and it is nice to see highlighted in mainstream media.

Related: 10 Best Music Videos About Mental Health

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (2020)

I'm Thinking Of Ending Things Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things creates a jarring and psychologically difficult viewing experience for some. It takes a deeper look to fully understand the mental illnesses that the main character, Jake, lives with throughout the timeline of the film. Writer and director Charlie Kaufman uses abstract and metaphoric storytelling to dive into the mind of the mentally ill main character in one of the best mental health movies on Netflix. The film ends with a riddle, and viewers still question whether it is about childhood trauma, suicidal ideation, or schizophrenia.

Hillbilly Elegy (2020)

Glenn Close and Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy

Of the mental health movies on Netflix, Hillbilly Elegy received mixed reviews for its portrayal of mental health and a woman with addiction who is disconnected from her family. It isn’t clear what Bev’s, played by Amy Adams, mental illness is exactly, and it’s certainly undiagnosed, but the film highlights the issues a family faces when one of its members goes through this experience, especially when it manifests via addiction. The characterization is a little over-the-top and because of this, the film feels inauthentic, but at its basis, it highlights the ways untreated mental illness can create tumultuous relationships.

More: 15 TV Characters Who Accurately Portray Mental Illness

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